Hospice marks a decade of caring for young adults

Oxford Mail: Hospice founder Sister Frances with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the opening of Douglas House in 2004 Hospice founder Sister Frances with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the opening of Douglas House in 2004

TEN years ago a dream of a hospice that supported young adults was realised. A decade on, Douglas House has helped hundreds of people aged 16 to 35 who live with life-shortening conditions.

Today guests, families, staff and volunteers will mark that milestone with a party.

The Queen and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, officially opened Douglas House in Magdalen Road, East Oxford, on February 20, 2004.

The opening followed a fundraising campaign in 2000 to raise £4m to build it.

Clare Edwards, director of Clinical Services for Helen & Douglas House, said: “We want to celebrate not only 10 years of Douglas House as a specialist hospice, but also celebrate the lives of the many young adults who have visited us over the years.”

Celebrities including Graham Norton and Jeremy Clarkson attended the turf-cutting ceremony in April 2002, when construction on the hospice began.

Hospice founder Sister Frances, who was also the driving force behind Helen House, which opened in 1982, spotted that there was very little specialist provision for young people.

She told the Oxford Mail in 2000: “Helen House is for children but the oldest person we have had there was 28. There are pictures of fluffy animals and cartoon characters on the walls. They are not suitable for older people.”

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Because of advances in medical care and intervention, more children with complex conditions could survive into early adulthood and there was a real need for a place like Douglas House.

The hospice, which looks after eight young adults, was named after a blind young man, Douglas Bell, who was a regular visitor to Helen House.

Douglas, like his sister Penelope, who died in 1985, was diagnosed with Batten’s disease soon after starting school.

He stayed at Helen House more than 80 times from the age of 15 until his death in 1993 at just 24 years old.

When Douglas House first opened, young adults visited from across the country.

Oxford Mail:

Douglas House marked its fifth anniversary in 2009. Pictured, front from left,  Kate Barklie of the care team, Cat Lovell with mother Carmel Lovell. Founder Sister Frances is also pictured with other guests

Now referrals are limited to young people who live within a one-and-a-half hour drive of the hospice.

Kathryn Lewis, team leader at Douglas House, said: “We are really excited to be celebrating our 10th birthday and look forward to providing our specialist services for many more years to come.”

The charity will continue to mark the 10th anniversary throughout the year, including with a conference aimed at health and social care professionals from across the world in Oxford on September 18.

  • For more information visit helenanddouglas.org.uk

BIG OCCASIONS

  • 1982:  Helen House, the world’s first children’s hospice, opens
  • 2000: Campaign launched to raise £4m to build of Douglas House
  • 2002: Sir Trevor Macdonald and Valerie Bell lay the foundation stone
  • 2004: The Queen officially opens the new hospice
  • Spring 2010 - The annexe was added to Douglas House, which was the planned second phase of the building. A new dining area for staff and volunteers was added and the Family Support and Bereavement Team had an office and counselling room allocated. The laundry also moved to the ground floor and a large store for additional beds and equipment was added
  • November 2013: Helen House closed for £1.5m facelift, with the family rooms in Douglas House are used as children’s bedrooms during the work
  • February 20, 2014: Douglas House celebrates 10th anniversary

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